Plant Genetic Resources and Climate Change

In 1989, my former colleagues at the University of Birmingham, Brian Ford-Lloyd and Martin Parry, and I organized a two-day symposium on genetic resources and climate change. The papers presented were published in Climatic Change and Plant Genetic Resources by Belhaven Press (ISBN 1 85293 102 7), edited by me and the other two.

In 1989 the whole idea of climate change was greeted with a considerable dose of scepticism – indeed, the book was ahead of its time. The various chapters covered predictions of climate change, impacts on agriculture, ecological and physiological effects, and how climate change would impact on genetic resources and conservation strategies.

In a particularly prescient chapter, the late Professor Harold Woolhouse discussed how photosynthetic biochemistry is relevant to adaptation to climate change. Two decades later the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in the Philippines is leading a worldwide effort to turbocharge the photosynthesis of rice, by converting the plant from so-called C3 to C4 photosynthesis.

Today, our understanding and acceptance of climate change rests on much more solid foundations, and the scientific community is looking at ways to adapt to this particular challenge. And access to and use of plant genetic resources will be an important approach in this endeavour.

A new book on plant genetic resources and climate change will be published in 2013 by CABI. Brian, Martin and I are joining forces once again to bring this exciting volume to publication. We are planning 19 chapters in three sections:

Overviews
1. Food security (Bob Zeigler – IRRI)
2. Germplasm conservation (lead author: Brian Ford-Lloyd – University of Birmingham)
3. Predicting climate changes (Richard Betts – UK Met Office)
4. Effect on productivity (Martin Parry – Imperial College, London)
5. Future growing conditions (lead author: Pam Berry – University of Oxford)
6. Susceptibility of species (lead author: Castaneda Alvarez – Bioversity International)
7. International mechanisms for conservation and use of genetic resources (lead author: Gerald Moore – formerly FAO)

Technologies for conservation and enhancing use
8. In situ conservation of wild relatives (Nigel Maxted – University of Birmingham)
9. On farm conservation (lead author: Mauricio Bellon – Bioversity International)
10. Molecular technologies (Ken McNally – IRRI)
11. Databases and informatics (lead author: Helen Ougham – University of Aberystwyth)
12. Releasing novel variation (Sue Armstrong – University of Birmingham)
13. Provenance breeding (Wayne Powell – University of Aberystyth)

Challenges
14. Temperature (lead author: PV Vara Prasad – Kansas State University)
15. Drought (Salvatore Ceccarelli – formerly ICARDA)
16. Salinity (lead author: Willie Erskine – University of Western Australia)
17. Submergence (lead author: Abdelbagi Ismail – IRRI)
18. Pests and diseases (lead author: Jeremy Pritchard – University of Birmingham)

A final chapter (19), by the editors, will provide a synthesis of the many issues raised in the individual chapters.

The Editors

Michael Jackson is the Managing Editor for this book. He retired from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in 2010. For 10 years he was Head of the Genetic Resources Center, managing the International Rice Genebank, one of the world’s largest and most important genebanks. For nine years he was Director for Program Planning and Communications. He was Adjunct Professor of Agronomy at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños. During the 1980s he was Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Birmingham, focusing on the conservation and use of plant genetic resources. From 1973-81 he worked at the International Potato Center, in Lima, Perú and in Costa Rica. He now works part-time as an independent agricultural research and planning consultant. He was appointed OBE in The Queen’s New Year’s Honours 2012, for services to international food science.

Brian Ford-Lloyd is Professor of Conservation Genetics at the University of Birmingham, Director of the University Graduate School, and Deputy Head of the School of Biosciences. As Director of the University Graduate School he aims to ensure that doctoral researchers throughout the University are provided with the opportunity, training and facilities to undertake internationally valued research that will lead into excellent careers in the UK and overseas. He draws from his experience of having successfully supervised over 40 doctoral researchers from the UK and many other parts of the world in his chosen research area which includes the study of the natural genetic variation in plant populations, and agricultural plant genetic resources and their conservation.

Martin Parry is Visiting Professor at The Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, and also Visiting Research Fellow at The Grantham Institute at the same university. Until September 2008 he was Co-Chair of Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability), of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) based at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, UK Meteorological Office. Previously he was Director of the Jackson Environment Institute (JEI), and Professor of Environmental Science at the University of East Anglia (1999-2002); Director of the JEI and Professor of Environmental Management at University College London (1994-99), foundation Director of the Environmental Change Institute and Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford (1991-94), and Professor of Geography at the University of Birmingham (1989-91). He was appointed OBE in The Queen’s New Year’s Honours 1998, for services to the environment and climate change.

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